Romans 14:7-8: Belonging to God in life and death
The portion in Romans that we are presently studying in confounding to the modern-minded person. Paul is talking about accepting each other, not judging each other and the liberty that we ought to extend to each other, all of which are popular distinctives today. The confounding part is where in the middle of a discussion about liberty, he talks about being slaves of Christ and everything we do either in life or death we are the Lord’s. Romans 14:7-8, ‘For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.’ But weren’t we talking about liberty of conscience? Why then is Paul talking about being submitted to God in life and death? This confuses the modern-minded person because we have two very different definitions of liberty. The modern definition of liberty is freedom to do whatever I want to do, ignoring the reality of sinful desires which can lead us astray and a God who commands us for our good. Christian liberty is that freedom God secures for us in Christ where we are free from everything that hinders us from serving God. We believe what the bible says about being created and God being good and our happiness being found not in our independence from the source of all good—God; but in our dependence upon Him.
Paul has been addressing the Roman Church talking to the two distinct groups he has called the weak and the strong. These groups needed reminding of certain truths because they were judging and despising one another. In verses 5-6 Paul has told these divided Christians that they need to grant liberty to their brothers and sisters in Christ to worship according to their consciences when what they are doing is to the Lord and not in violation of any clear command of scripture. He repeated phrases like ‘in honour of the Lord’ and ‘gives thanks to God.’ In verses 7-8 Paul is going to elaborate on the principle of our individual standing before the Lord and how we are obligated to serve Him in life and death. This emphasis adds to Paul’s overall point of why we should be accepting and not criticising our brethren. For if our purpose is to live for God and honour Him in all we do, we can ask nothing more of our brethren if that is what they are in fact doing. They may differ from us, but we must accept that they are not pouring themselves out in sin but in service to God. This should make us slower to be so critical of our brethren in Christ.
So as we look at Paul’s developing argument we come to a central premise that we are God’s and all we do is to be for God. As we explore this idea I would like to look at three key ideas. Firstly, the way in which Paul sees us all as individuals before God. Secondly, I would like to think about how we live to the Lord, and then in an age of euthanasia think about how we die to the Lord.